Orion Nebula sketch

M42, the Orion Nebula, sketched when high in the sky (and therefore out of the worst light pollution), from town on a moonless night.

Equipment used was a 16 inch Dobsonian and 26mm Meade Super Plossl giving me about 80x magnification.

M42 always looks like someone’s right hand holding a bow to me.  Ironic as its constellation is Orion the hunter.

(Coalville, 15th February 2018)

Hubble’s variable nebula, and H-beta filter targets

Thursday 18th January  10.30 to 11.30pm    No moon   Observing from my back garden in Coalville

After several unsuccessful evenings, I finally found Hubble’s variable nebula. The trick is to wait until it’s at its highest point in the sky and therefore out of the worst light pollution, i.e. directly south.

I was concerned it would be so small it would be difficult to distinguish from a star in the low magnification wide angle eyepiece I was using to search for it – like Neptune and Uranus. However, when I actually found it I realised you’d never mistake it for a star – it’s too dim. The reason I’d had difficulty finding it was because it’s just very faint, even in my 16 inch Dob.

Hubble’s variable nebula looks a bit like a very small globular cluster – just a smudge at low magnification. At higher magnification of a 100 or 150x you can discern a triangular shape, with just a hint of a star at the tip. The best view was without a UHC or OIII filter.

Hubble’s variable nebula can be found by hopping from the star in the bottom of the drawing to a nearby double star, and then onto the Nebula.  It’s just above and to the left of Orion.



Had another go with the H-beta filter. I could see there was something there when I looked at the California Nebula, but I think I was using too small a FOV to make out any shape. I could see a bit of a fuzz surrounding one of the stars in the belt of Orion, but no Horsehead nebula. M43 wasn’t any better with the filter. The only significant extra detail I could see was a line behind the bow in the Orion nebula.  Not sure whether to keep the filter.

Orion Nebula Trapezium

Wednesday 12th December 2017
8.30 to 10pm Moon just past first quarter
A while ago at the club, someone suggested I try and see all six stars in the trapezium with my 16 inch Dobsonian.  Last night was really clear and I managed to see all six. I had a vague recollection I’d managed this before, but have only been able to see the four brighter stars the last few times I’ve tried. It must be something to do with seeing conditions/transparency.
All six stars were visible in my Vixen LVW 13mm eyepiece, which provides 155x magnification in my scope. The fainter two stars weren’t visible in my 8mm Televue Radian eyepiece, but I recall seeing them in an old Televue plossl eyepiece I used to own.
Comparing the two faint stars, the bottom one is slightly more inclined towards its neighbour, whereas the top one is pointing out more to open space. The bottom one is easier to see, but both stars were coming in and out of view, depending on atmospheric conditions.

David Geary

Observing Log Friday 27/10/2017 7-9:30 pm

The forecast was correct, clear skies, a chance to used the skywatcher ST102 bought earlier in year and only used for solar work so far. ( see pic.1)

I started under the carport ,as moon was not visible from back garden, not quite first quarter, used it to complete lining up red dot finder, took some getting use to smaller image after the 8″ Newtonian or the 9.25″ SCT. When at IAS I bought a smartphone adapter to take afocal images using the wifes’ new smartphone, now was on opportunity to try it out, pic.2 shows adapter and phone, pic.3  image of moon, notice the chromatic aberration, however visually it was not noticeable. The image was taken with a 30mm plossl eyepiece with this 500mm focal length refractor this gives a mag of x17. The crater marked with a red dot in the centre is Ptolemaeus, at slightly higher magnifications the centre of crater appeared to have horizontal bands across it, is this an artefact, blemish on objective/ diagonal?? at a mag of x83 (6mm plossl) all was revealed there were shadow bands from the peaks on the Eastern crater wall, the wall reaches heights of 3000m (9000+ ft) and with the sun relatively low on the moons horizon the peaks cast some long shadows, it was fascinating watching the shadows shorten even over a relatively short period of time , Liz had taken her phone back, so I have attempted a sketch of the shadows cast over the crater floor ( see pic.4),  the floor is relatively smooth, having been flooded with lava, some very minor impact craters formed since, the darker shading on the west is due to floor slumping towards crater wall. This was the first time I have seen such marked shadows on a crater floor formed by the crater walls, shadows from central  peaks are usually observed and just blanket shadow from the wall, the continual changing of relative positions of sun and moon makes the terminator a dynamic visual environment, there is always something new to see, even in one evening.

I then relocated to the back garden, starting in the SW with Albireo in Cygnus, the 10mm plossl  ( x50) clearly showed B1 cyg ( Alberio) as a orange red K class star and B2 cyg B class blue star. Taking a line down to zeta Aq from Albireo, bisecting the line from Vega to Altair, just slightly left the Coat hanger asterism fell neatly into the field of view using a 40mm plossl ( x12.5) , normally I would use binoculars for this target, but the wider field of view afforded by this small refractor enables it to be seen in its entirety. Up into Lyra,aiming between Sulafat and Shellak to locate the Ring Nebula ( M57), fuzzy ring but no hint of central white dwarf in this planetary nebula. Continuing west into Hercules M13 and then up to M92, even with 6mm plossl ( x 83) not a lot of detail. Better with the double cluster in Perseus and as I headed to M31, Andromeda galaxy the cloud had rolled in bring the session to a close at around 9:30.

It was nice to get out with some clear skies and I found the AZ3 mount that came with the ST102 easy to use and manoeuvre and although the refractor shows some chromatic abberation as shown by the photograph of moon , visually it was not noticeable enough to be a problem.

here’s to more clear skies!!!

Pete H

Blue Snowball nebula simulation

Jane and I are in Fuerteventura for a weeks hols until tomorrow evening 18th Oct. The TV has a really bright mid blue LED that shines like a searchlight when we are trying to sleep! To cover it up I used a piece of card then got on bed. When the lights were off I checked it and thought I can still just see the glow and it looks remarkably like the Blue Snowball nebula NGC7662 visually through a scope when the sky is affected by light pollution and its difficulty pick out! So I took a pic! Whilst not an actual astronomical observation as such, it was still interesting.

Obviously there aren’t any stars, but do you see the similarity?

V2; The brighter image was taken further away with much less zoom. I have also included a sketch I did back in 2016 as a comparison, which has been inverted (I had to colour the nebula orange so it came out bluish when inverted).

Sketching the “Swan”

I have been having a discussion with David Geary concerning M17, the “Swan” or “Omega” nebula. Looking back in my notebooks, I found I DID sketch it in 2009. The sketch is below. There is also a flipped version so the orientation matches the later image.

Same telescope – – –

Now given I am no artist, I wonder why I like the PD camera – – – ?!

The Lagoon Nebula

Saturday 9th September   9.30pm   Coalville   Streetlights nearby

No moon   Visibility clear but not brilliant

Another nebula that could easily be overlooked as you can’t observe it unless you have a clear horizon to the south.  I preferred the view with the UHC – the stars were brighter.  The OIII did however show a bit more nebulosity amidst the star cluster on the right.  This nebula is worth a look.  It’s visible from July to September so you’ll have to be quick if you want to see it this year.

David Geary

Scraper board Sol.

Thinking of ways to draw the very fine details observed by eye, I came across some bits of scraper board. This is a thin layer of chalk bound to card and overlaid by a layer of black ink. Any scratches made in the surface show as white. White board is also available.

A few scratches show the very fine detail to be gleaned by eye using the Lunt 35THa. This has a tilting etalon giving surface and chromosphere details at the same time. The Ha “window” is quite wide with a good sweet spot. Nick.Todays brief Sol, above.

Quark; Fun in the (Bank Holiday) Sun! Monday 28th August 2017

Damian’s review – see Andy’s previously posted!


Wow – a Bank Holiday and sunshine!

Julie was pleased – we’d only just got back from a short break in South Wales at mum’s caravan, so all the washing was sorted whilst the house solar panels were kicking out the kWs and now it was all out on the line drying awaiting my super ironing skills!

I invited ‘observing buddy’ Andy (yep, that’s him above – shy you see!) around too, he came with his own Quark Chromo plus his SkyWatcher Equinox 80 and new to him Manfrotto tripod with video head. I like this a lot – far better than his Altair Astro Sabre mount.

Ice creams, food and drink, sun and warmth, good company… this solar malarkey is rather good fun!

So, third time out for the Quark and new sketching tools….

This time the Pentel 0.7mm Graphgear 1000 mechanical pencil was equipped with the new ‘Pilot Color Eno Neox’ red leads that had come all the way from Japan (via Amazon!) I gave Andy my second Graphgear pencil, but with the *orange Neox leads so he could try sketching (in reverse) as well. I like the mechanical pencil – it’s got a nice grip, retains it’s balance and you don’t need to stop to keep sharpening the point! I like the way this device has an extended metal tube to hold the lead and the way it retracts for safe storage.

*Coloured mechanical pencil leads:

When I started this experiment I chose Pentel red leads first as reviews stated they were less susceptible to snapping than the Staedtler ‘Mars Micro range’. They were also reasonably priced, so ‘worth a chance’ to see if they would ‘work’ on black paper (that the scanner could pick it up and I could see enough to work with when actually outside). The Pentel’s were… OK, but I found them rather hard and ‘scratchy’. This did give a nice filamentary effect to prominence sketches, but were quite hard work to get some coverage down onto the paper and took a bit too much processing in Photoshop afterwards to get the look I was after.

The internet search continued… to the Pilot Color Eno Neox – there is a cheaper ‘non Neox’ version I understand. These get good reviews in artistic circles. Soft but not too brittle, plenty of pigment, easy to rub out…   more expensive!

A purchase on Amazon and a wait for delivery…. I disappointingly found that the orange lead colour appeared more white on the cheaper black (dark grey) paper I was already using with the Pentel leads. In office scanner tests there was still enough of a colour to select in Photoshop for tuning later. Next purchase was a better black card stock. Thicker card, more ‘tooth’ to pick up the pigment in the leads and darker to aid colour contrast.

‘Canson’ black card stock (Amazon yet again). It has a decent weight (240g/m2), is much ‘blacker’ than the cheaper paper I had been using (helps the scan afterwards as well as giving more contrast when sketching), plus takes rubbing out without leaving marks on the surface. I still feel that perhaps the grain is too much, so will continue my search for an even smoother stock.

This though was an improvement, but decided that the red leads would be even better. So another purchase and wait!

Photo: Samsung Galaxy S7 through 32mm TV Plossl

Same, with iPhone 6

Well, it still doesn’t appear a rich red (like you see in Ha observing) when sketching onto black, but it’s easy to see when actually sketching out under the sun. It’s also much easier to scan and then tease into what I want the final image to be, without having to push/force things in Photoshop.

The orange leads could even be used for night time sketching as it would be easy to desaturate any remaining colour back to white.

The leads are easy to work – plenty of colour/coverage is easy to put down with minimum effort. I’ve not had one snap as yet either. They are easy to rub out without damaging the paper, soft so can be manipulated/smudged for subtle effects – would be good for galaxies/nebula…. but being soft, will run down quickly…. remind me of my old (and favourite) Caran d’Ache pencils from art college.

The other purchase that arrived for this observing session was the photo studio flash umbrella from eBay for £6 that had been mentioned previously on a SGL forum solar post. I had intended to fix with a goose neck device, but found that a bulldog clip did the job just as well. This is much lighter than the felt like fabric I’ve used at night (which gets damp…) It does let a small amount of light through, but being silver backed, doesn’t get overly hot. I found that using my sun hat pushes out the loose fabric of the umbrella – giving me room to work/sketch – a ‘result’!

Now you see me…

Now you don’t!

Another good three hours then under the sun. Some nice proms and a sunspot to entertain us. The Quarks performed superbly yet again. Under the right conditions I think both the new 25mm TV Plossl and the second hand 20mm Pentax XW will be of use from what I saw on Monday.

Sketches from the day – I think I’m homing in finally on my own style. Not quite there yet (think it’s the background that’s putting me off). My own representation then of what I saw – never going to be exact like a photograph, but a record of the event… with some fiery oomph thrown in!

Sketches not reversed.

Above prom seen at around 7pm on the GONG image below.

Below sketch of prom seen at roughly 10pm on the GONG image below.

**Also see Roger’s images posted from the day…



Clear skies,